“The following is a contributor post by the Off-Centered Earth Mage.”
“The following is a contributor post by the Off-Centered Earth Mage.”
Throughout the ages, there have come video games which smash their way into the minds of those who are bold enough, strong enough and brave enough to play it — or so I’m told. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. Such a game can be a AAA, huge budget, multi-developer gift from the Gods, or it can be one of those hidden gems, those indie titles that just have that something special. Personally speaking, it seems as though everybody has that one game. That one game, which, to them, no matter how old, or when it was played, still looks utterly beautiful in their minds, and holds a special place in their hearts. Everybody has that one game which, for them, brings with it nothing but the fondest of memories. What I’m going to attempt to decipher however, is whether or not this can be put down to nostalgia warping our minds, like some dishonest and malevolent journalist (I mean “being”), or is it, in fact, something deeper, an emotional connection, of sorts, which allows us to view the past through the eyes that made those memories in the first place?
First off, I am — and have always been — a huge believer in the development of AAA titles, once certain criteria are met, of course. For example, we have all seen and lived through bad business practices, as well as shady marketing (that’s right, I’m talking to you!) But as far as AAA titles go, everybody has their favorites. I, for one, clocked in a strange amount of time on God of War (2018) and Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018) this past year (admittedly: using photo mode, finding those damn ravens and swinging through a beautiful NYC, respectively). So don’t think of this piece as a critique on AAA titles (modern or older) but rather the ramblings of a man deeply affected (probably worryingly so) by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006).
A little bit of backstory is needed here. My parents were never really into gaming. My Mam thought they were kind of cool but never quite got up the nerve to dip her toe in (except for Wii Sports (2006), but who didn’t play that game?), whereas my Dad was into them enough that I was graced with a PlayStation, some point-and-click adventures and Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue (2006) for the PC (shut up, that game was beautiful!) This stopped after a time however. My Mam assumed games would turn me into a violent and unsociable mess and so on and so forth, so my PlayStation was cruelly ripped from my childhood eyes. I wouldn’t be able to game for a long time. I was graced however, by the marketing of the Wii, and my parents picked it up for me as an early birthday present some years later. This is where the fun begins.
I have very little memory of what it was like to buy games at that age or to even be gifted games. Thus, as you can imagine, my memory isn’t the best. For this reason, I’ll keep anything like specific times and dates out of this, but reading along, feel free to pop them in.
I have this intensely clear memory of going into (what is still) my local GameStop to pick up the newly released The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006). In fact, I purchased this game from who is now the store manager but at the time was just working his way through college. I mentioned this to him the other day and we shared a laugh or two. I know it must have been the weekend or possibly a holiday because I can clearly remember ripping the game right open and sitting down in front of my television long into the night. I can honestly say that I was blown away almost instantly. That game was my first dip into anything of the kind. I’d never really played anything like it and yet in a way, I think I knew that it would shape my likes and dislikes of gaming for a long time, some of which are still relevant to this day. So, what was it exactly that made this game great for me?
Firstly, there needs to be a little understanding between us right now. I spent an ungodly amount of time in this game. If I could somehow go back and count the hours, I’m sure I’d be judged, judged so hard. I’m talking playing for a couple of hours every single day for a few years. I was young, this game had a lot to offer to a kid who had barely any games, least of all, titles with dozens upon dozens of hours worth of play time. I spent a tonne of time marvelling at what the game had to offer. It was a beautiful game, with an utterly beautiful narrative, after all. However, I will admit right now that I spent a tonne of time messing around in this game. At the time, me and my Dad both found it so cool that Link could not only stop at nearly any body of water, pull out a fishing rod and catch any number of weird and wonderful fish — but also that, at certain points in the game, Link could call (what to myself and my Dad was) a beautifully designed and utterly gorgeous bird of prey and use it to his advantage in certain puzzles and quests, and, at times, to take out enemies. So, as you can imagine, I poured hours into these (we’ll call them “mini-games”). In all honesty, it probably took me a vast number of hours to get past the starting area, not to mention that I can distinctly remember certain points in this game that now seem easier than the easiest puzzles or quest lines but at the time had me stuck for what felt like months. Ah, well, more fishing and falconry for me! I jest. (I really don’t, you’ll see.)
I’ll be honest, this game is one of my all time favorite titles. I’ll never argue that it’s perfect, because nothing is, but that’s not the point for me and it never has been. I’m currently playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017) and while it’s a huge improvement from the time of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) in numerous ways, for the purpose of this piece I’m going to focus primarily on both the graphical and mechanical similarities and differences.
Graphically speaking, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017) is a beautiful addition to the Switch’s library and has been dubbed a console seller by many. It’s not just the stunning graphics that drew me to it however, but rather how I was comparing this title to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) in my head. Although an older game, for me, it has a certain awe to it. A beautiful game for its time, I still remember how I was blown away by scenes such as: venturing deep into the depths of death Mountain; realizing for the first time the full scale of the Zora’s Domain; and — last but not least — those occasional boss fights with the huge and menacing boar-riding guy on the bridge. (Remember him? Great guy, good with kids.) However, looking back on the game, I must admit I’m a little stunned. The moment I looked up some footage and gameplay to refresh my memory a little, I was instantly brought back to those days spent sitting in front of my television with my father peering over my shoulder, snacks at the ready. In truth, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) is exactly how I remember it: a little fuzzy but beautiful in its own way. I think that’s a fair statement. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017), at least graphically speaking – but: for one, does that really matter; and, secondly, is that even a fair comparison? To answer both questions, simply put: no. Both games are beautiful, each in their own, distinct way. Mechanically speaking however, I’ve come to notice some things.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017), but at the same time, I’m not here to review anything, or give you any kind of score. What I’ll say however, is that there are mechanics that I love and mechanics that I hate in both titles respectively. For example, I remember in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) — and yes, I know I’m being a little biased here, but — in Kakariko village, when you must make donations to progress the story, I, for the life of me, with my child’s brain, could not figure out how to make the pretty numbers go up. Of course, it was just the simple press of a button, but that revelation was hidden from me and didn’t come until months later. Still, though, more time for fishing (and so it begins)! Something else that had me stuck for months was: when in Zora’s Domain, you were tasked with heading up the snow adorned mountainside into a raging blizzard. You were required to catch a salmon as human Link, change into wolf Link, smell the salmon and follow its scent up the safest route. THIS TOOK ME ALMOST A YEAR TO FIGURE OUT, A WHOLE YEAR! But, as I’ve said before, more time for fishing. I’m coming to notice the same issue (if I can even call it that, seeing as how it’s undeniably my own fault) in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017). At times, it seems, you’re left to your own devices, when figuring out what to do, or where to go, for certain quests. While this is charming (and brings me back to a time of RAGE INDUCING IMPATIENCE AND LACK OF UNDERSTANDING — I mean… fun and good memories), at times, I find myself having to look up a guide a little bit too often for my liking. But, hey, maybe that’s just my own problem. But, of course, more time for spear-fishing! (I still can’t bring myself to eat salmon.)
Maybe nostalgia has its own part to play in this tale of wolf-boys, big birds and fishing, but, for me, I don’t think it’s affected my thoughts, or even my memories, as far as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) is concerned. I remember my time with that game as fondly as it deserves, perhaps just a little too fondly, as I still lie awake at night wondering where all those hours went — but we’ll leave that tale for another time. In years to come, I know that I’ll be remembering The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (2017) in much the same way: me, a dashing youth sitting (more comfortably, this time) on the couch, while my father potters around the house, saying how amazing he finds it that a game so huge can fit on such a small hand-held console. Here’s to our memories folks — and, let’s be honest, to fishing.
The Off-Centred Earth Mage, known as Thomas Kearns-Horan in some parts of the world, or The Vague Maker of References in even darker places, can be found in any second-hand bookshop, game store, and occasionally the odd forest. Check in on his escapades here @thomasK_H for a bit of a laugh, and the odd dog photo.
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